One hospital in North Carolina says it has treated 10 patents in the past six months who have suffered severe burns and fractures—including one patient who lost his sight—after an e-cigarette they were smoking exploded.
And these are not isolated cases, but nobody seems to be reporting them. “We know that this is a big problem at burn centres across the United States,” says Clare Meernik, from the University of North Carolina.
Part of the problem is that surveillance systems don’t categorise the problem, and so doctors or patients don’t have anywhere to register the incident. The US’s National Fire Protection Association listed just 15 e-cigarette explosions and fires in 2015, and yet the American Burn Association was aware of at least several hundred cases that year.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) started to regulate e-cigarettes earlier this year, but hadn’t developed safety standards. Most of the explosions seemed to have been started by some battery malfunction, so this especially needed attention by the FDA, she said.